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Behind Joe Biden’s Promise to Open Schools Within 100 Days

President Joe Biden wants to get kids back in schools within 100 days. Is that possible?

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President Joe Biden is working hard to get your kids back to in-person schools in 100 days — here’s how.

Since President Joe Biden officially became the president at 12 p.m. on January 20th, 2021, he has been hard at work signing dozens of executive orders to get COVID-19 under control and get kids back in classrooms. The pandemic, which has killed over 400,000 Americans and shows no signs of easing up as we grind through a long, cold, lonely winter, is Biden’s major focus in terms of helping American families, and he’s working on the problem in a series of ways to help ease the spread of infection and the economic impact that COVID-19 has brought to us all. 

What Has Joe Biden Done So Far?

Many of the executive actions are focused on authorizing the Defense Production Act to keep producing masks, gloves, and other PPE that health care workers still desperately need, almost a year into waging the war against this virus, as well as building up a vaccine distribution infrastructure so that the Biden administration can get 100 million Americans their first vaccine dose by the end of his first 100 days. 

On Friday, January 22, he is expected to sign orders that would bring the federal minimum wage up to $15/hour and to authorize federal officials to speed up the delivery of the second round of $600 COVID-19 stimulus payments, which many millions of Americans, (including myself!) have still not received.

What Is Biden Doing To Reopen Schools In 100 Days?

But most importantly, for parents who have been stuck in a lifetime of remote schooling, Biden has been making as good as he possibly can on his campaign promise to reopen K-12 schools across the country within 100 days of him taking office. 

On Thursday, January 21, Biden signed a series of executive actions in order to work towards schools reopening. Of those orders, one of which titled “Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers,” he directed the Department of Education and the Health and Human Services department to begin providing guidance to schools on how to reopen safely — including masking, testing, and cleaning guidelines.

He reached out to the FCC as part of the guideline and urged them to pursue improving internet connectivity for students who lack a reliable internet connection, an issue that plagues millions of American students.

He also signed a memo that would allow schools to be reimbursed for the purchase of PPE, ventilation upgrades, classroom reconfiguration, upgraded tech, and more, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) 

Is Reopening In 100 Days Actually Feasible?

It’s hard to say whether or not Biden will actually be able to reopen all schools in 100 days. Union leaders have expressed concern about the timeline, especially given the spread of B.1.1.7, the UK-COVID variant that has led to a massive surge across the world. But even if the 100 days itself is not possible, they are very clearly behind the effort to take reopening schools seriously. The President of the National Education Association, one of the largest unions for teachers in the United States, said that the goal of 100 days is not really about hitting the target but much more about “the urgency he’s putting on the issue.”

And Carole Johnson, who works as Biden’s testing coordinator for COVID, basically said the same, noting that anything could change with the planned school reopening timeline. 

And, of course, the reopening plan cannot be done unless Congress approves the parts of Joe Biden’s massive spending package that would give hundreds of billions to schools across the country, would prioritize teachers being vaccinated, and would give schools the funding to actually open schools safely. The money is sorely needed. Schools have been underwater financially since the pandemic began — and, frankly, since well before the pandemic began.